Three second half goals subjected Mansfield Town to defeat against league leaders Cambridge United at One Call Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Stags were more than a match for the table toppers in the opening 45 minutes; however, two quick second-half goals took the game away from Nigel Clough’s side before a late strike sealed the points for the visitors.
Paul Mullin netted a brace with two close range finishes before substitute Harvey Knibbs sealed the win in the 90th minute.
Nigel Clough named an unchanged side from Wednesday evening’s clash with Bolton Wanderers, with only one change on the bench.
Forward Oli Sarkic replaced James Clarke after recovering from a recent thigh injury.
Kellan Gordon’s knee injury meant that he remained sidelined alongside George Lapslie who has missed the last three games through a hamstring problem.
The Stags started with promise, asking questions of the visitors down the flanks.
However, it was Cambridge who found the back of the net first, only for it to be ruled out.
Joe Ironside rose highest to meet Kyle Knoyle’s cross seven minutes in, his header beat Aidan Stone but the forward was deemed to have fouled Farrend Rawson in the process.
Windy conditions at One Call Stadium played a part in the early stages of the match with both goalkeepers struggling with their distribution.
Jordan Bowery then nearly broke the deadlock on 23 minutes, after cutting in from the left channel. The forward found a yard of space but could only curl an effort just wide of the far post.
The game began to open up after the half hour mark with Harry Charsley going close for Nigel Clough’s side. The Irishman picked up a loose ball just outside the box and fired a strike narrowly wide.
Cambridge very nearly went ahead six minutes before half-time when Wes Hoolahan was left unmarked at the back post.
The veteran midfielder brought down a lofted cross and hit a low half-volley towards the bottom corner, yet Stone was more than a match to the strike and kept the scores level going into the break.
Mansfield struggled to muster any clear-cut chances in the first few minutes after the restart, despite much of the football being played in the visitors’ half.
Jamie Reid tried to play in Bowery in the 55th minute but his through ball was too heavy for his teammate to reach.
The Stags were then made to rue their missed chances just moments later when Cambridge took the lead through Mullin.
A quick break from Mark Bonner’s side allowed Harrison Dunk to deliver into the six-yard box where the league’s top scorer tapped home from close range.
Ollie Clarke looked to respond instantly with a shot from the edge of the box, but it was easily dealt with by Callum Burton in the visitors’ goal.
It went from bad to worse for the Stags just minutes later when Mullin doubled his side’s advantage.
A floated cross found the forward in space at the back post and he hit a smart finish from a tight angle.
Substitute Jason Law looked to add some urgency into Mansfield’s play on 75 minutes when he latched onto a through ball on the edge of the box. However, Cambridge’s defence did well to recover and force a corner.
It was another substitute that created the Stags’ next chance with ten minutes left to play. Tyrese Sinclair whipped an inviting cross into the six-yard box from the right flank, but Reid’s header failed to find the target.
Cambridge added a third goal in the 90th minute thanks to substitute Harvey Knibbs. The youngster drove a powerful strike directly at Stone who couldn’t stop it finding the back of the net.
Sinclair went close to finding a consolation goal with a fine free-kick late into injury time but he was denied by a diving save from Burton.
STAGS XI: Stone (GK), Sweeney, Rawson, Charsley (Sinclair 73’), Clarke ©, Bowery (Sarkic 89’), Maris, Perch, Quinn (Law 62’), Reid, McLaughlin.
UNUSED SUBS: Štěch (GK), O’Keeffe, Benning, O’Driscoll.
CAMBRIDGE XI: Burton (GK), Knoyle, Taylor ©, Hannant (Knibbs 79’), O’Neil (Drysdale 70’), Mullin, Dunk, Hoolahan, Okedina, May, Ironside.
UNUSED SUBS: McKenzie-Lyle (GK), Iredale, Alese, Davies, Worman.
REFEREE: S. Purkiss
ASSISTANTS: M. Smith & G. Viccars
FOURTH OFFICIAL: J. Bell